Celebrate a Day of Happiness, and Learn More About the Happiest Country in the World

Happy International Day of Happiness! (What, it wasn’t on your calendar? That makes me a little unhappy…) It’s a day to recognize the fact that being happy is one of the most important human conditions to strive for. Because if we’re happy it probably means that the worrisome parts of life such as having enough food, living in suitable shelter, and finding something good to watch on TV are all taken care of.

Whatever happiness means to you, it is clear that there are a lots of unhappy people around. Scowling faces, grumpy retorts, complaining and whining. What these people need is a little encouragement, a few big smiles, and maybe a shift in perspective.

And maybe they need a little more Colombia in their lives.

Colombia? A happy place?

There are the cups of Colombian coffee that make more than a few people much happier in the mornings, but most of what makes up Colombia’s international reputation aren’t usually the happiest of subjects (i.e. the facts of a violent civil conflict, drug cartels, and harsh poverty).

However, while it might come as a surprise to many, Colombians are constantly ranked as some of the happiest people on earth.

For two years running, Colombia is number one in the WIN-Gallup Poll (and was #3 in the Happy Planet Index), making Colombia officially the happiest country in the world.

So why are Colombians so happy?

Perhaps it is the weather. The coasts are hot and tropical, with perfect balmy evenings under a Caribbean or Pacific sunset. Go inland and up into the hills a bit and you can live in perfect spring-like temperatures year round. Medellín is even known as the City of the Eternal Spring. (Consequently, March 20th is also the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, so happy spring as well…) When you’re in the mood for just enough chill to bring out your scarf, Colombians can head up further into the Andes to Bogotá to experience a crisp tropical ‘winter.’

Sunset on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains at Tayrona National Park.
Sunset on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains at Tayrona National Park.

Perhaps it’s the food. Colombia dishes are flavorful, simply, and colorful. Savory sancocho soup, crispy fried empanadas, sweet coconut rice, and an abundance of fresh fruits (most of which don’t even have an English translation). And of course really good coffee (though the best coffee is shipped overseas and Colombians tend to drink mediocre blends or—sacrilegiously—instant coffee).

Colombian Food
Colombian empanadas, just fried and ready for eating from a shop in Bogotá.

Perhaps it’s the music. How can you not crack a smile and start tapping your feet when you hear the beats of vallenato, champeta, or reggaeton, or get up and dance when you hear salsa or cumbia blasting?

Perhaps it’s the amazing natural beauty. Colombia is blessed with beautiful palm tree-framed beaches on both the Caribbean and the Pacific, wind-swept plains and deserts in the east, rolling green hills dotted with forests and farms, jungles thick with animal and plant life, and rugged mountains rising to snow-capped peaks. Whatever your favorite environment is, Colombia’s got it.

But all in all, perhaps the reason Colombians are so happy is just because of the fact that they are Colombians. Despite the hardships their country has endured, and the poverty many are still straddled with, Colombians tend to be an optimist lot, friendly to a fault to strangers, and loyal with a passion to family. In English, we have the phrase “the calm before the storm.” Colombians have the phrase “después de la tormenta viene la calma.” After the storm comes the calm. That is an optimistic view of the world.

Some happy (and passionate) fans at a football match.
Some happy (and passionate) Colombian fans at a football match.

(The list of reasons why Colombians can certainly be expanded, including the fact that Colombia has the second-most national holidays in the world, and the women are famously beautiful. Huffington Post has their own list of reasons why Colombians are so happy; the list and accompanying slideshow can be found here.)

So celebrate International Day of Happiness by spreading smiles around, and perhaps by embracing a little of your inner Colombian.

To get a little more Colombia in your life, might I suggest:

  1. Going to find a good Colombian restaurant in your city or frying up your own patacones or other delicious recipes. Try mycolombianrecipes.com for ideas.
  2. Listening to some Colombian music. Outside of Shakira’s hips never lying, try Carlos Vives’ Fruta Fresca or Juanes’ La Camisa Negra (sure to get you dancing like the people in the rather strange music video).
  3. Reading Misspelled Paradise is always a good option, of course (I have it on good authority that it is both humorous and informative about Colombia).
  4. Or best yet, start planning a trip to Colombia to experience its happiness for yourself!

I wish everyone the happiest of days.

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